It’s HARD to listen to the radio
And they wonder why radio listening is falling
It struck me tonight what an effort radio listening sometimes is, and this came as a shock. After all, this is radio: the original electronic medium, the simplest, the most pervasive, most easily consumed.
Yeah, I thought all that too, until I tried to catch the grand finale of London 2012, the Paralympic Games closing ceremony.
I was on a train to Manchester for most of it. The on-board wifi isn’t up to TV distribution, and although I brought my digital TV USB stick with me, (yes I am that much of a geek) reception is impossible on the move.
No problem, I thought, I’ll listen. After all, I love radio – I started my career at Radio NZ (after listening to BBC World Service all through my teens) and radio is perfect for a couple of hours on the train.
I got out my phone, pushed in the headphones, flicked on the built-in FM radio app and fell at the first hurdle. Not from poor reception, actually I could get 10 FM stations from the start-up scan.
No, the problem was partly to do with paralympics broadcasting rights and partly technology.
For reasons I don’t have the strength to go into, the Paralympics on the radio is only on BBC Radio 5 Live. 5 Live broadcast on AM, DAB and online.
My phone doesn’t do AM (sensible device, it’s rubbish) but neither does it do DAB (for the same reason).
That leaves me with online, and I spent a good 10 minutes poking round in Android’s app downloads to find a suitable radio player.
I found one, Tune-In Radio if you’re that bothered.
Luckily the 3G signal on that bit of the railways is better than the TV reception and eventually, I’m listening at something close to FM quality. (Incidentally the module sticking out of my phone in the picture above is a battery extender. Continuous 3G data doesn’t half suck up the power!)
Now what a hassle just to listen to the radio! And I was thinking that accessibility was the least of radio’s problems. Listening hours are falling, even though overall reach is high, and the younger you are, the less you listen.
Thinking back what irked me more deeply was the thought of how wasteful it was. Even though we’ve built up a network of AM, FM and now DAB networks, to get what I wanted I had to have a dedicated signal of it transmitted to the train simply because none of the others was an option.
This leaves me suddenly with lots of questions over radio’s future that I hadn’t asked myself before, and it makes me look again at the ways in which you can receive 5Live and knowing exactly why they leave analogue radio languishing at the bottom.